Former DC Mayor Marion Barry dead at 78
(NBC Washington) – Marion Barry, an icon of D.C. politics good and bad for more than 40 years, has died at age 78.
“It is with deep regret that the family of former four-time D.C. Mayor, and Ward 8 City Councilman, Marion S. Barry, Jr., announces that he has passed,” read a statement early Sunday from Barry’s family.
Barry had been hospitalized at Howard University Hospital Thursday after complaining of a urinary tract infection. He was released Saturday, and family members said he seemed to feel well. “In his own words, he was ‘fantabulous’ — his words, not mine,” said Barry spokeswoman LaToya Foster at an early-morning press conference at United Medical Center.
Sunday morning, Barry visited with his son, Christopher, and then stopped to eat. On his way back into his home from the car, Barry collapsed. His driver brought him inside the home, unresponsive.
Barry was taken to United Medical Center at about 12:15 a.m. Sunday, and was pronounced dead at about 1:45 a.m. The District of Columbia’s medical examiner said Sunday that Barry died of natural causes due to heart problems. A contributing factor was chronic kidney disease that complicated Barry’s diabetes.
Reaction poured in as news of Barry’s death spread early Sunday morning. “He loved the District of Columbia and so many Washingtonians loved him,” D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray said in a statement that expressed “deep sadness” and promised “official ceremonies worthy of a true statesman of the District of Columbia.”
Gray ordered flags at all D.C. buildings to be flown at half-staff beginning Sunday in Barry’s honor.
In a statement released Sunday, incoming D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said, “Mayor Marion Barry gave a voice to those who need it most.”
Barry had recently taped an interview with Oprah Winfrey for her show, “Oprah: Where Are They Now?” The Barry family statement indicated that the interview — which featured his new book, “Mayor For Life: the Incredible Story of Marion Barry, Jr.” — still would air Sunday at 9 p.m.
Barry served four terms as mayor and had a lock on the D.C. Council’s Ward 8 seat. But along with that huge political success, many personal failures marked his turbulent life.
Early on in his career, the Washington City Paper dubbed him “Mayor for Life.” He confounded critics who railed against his melodramatic life, even as he basked in the admiration of forgiving citizens who looked to him as their champion.